Why state-controlled recycling isn't always the best

By | June 18, 2013

What is waste for one person is value for another. The question is what gateways should be in place to facilitate and control the transfer of physical goods? Should it be the state, or private industry, or some mix?

Until recently, private waste facilities have been able to collect old electronics and large waste and recycle the materials. But this changed last year, meaning only the state is allowed to do so (it's free if the state picks it up, the private waste handlers have to pay a fee to the state, which they have to pass on to consumers, if they pick it up). I'm not quite sure of the reason why, other than to discourage private waste handlers from recycling for profit. Does this mean that the state has a commitment to profitable recycling? Or does it mean that they are just killing off an additional potentially profitable business area?

Either way, that policy is a big clamp on innovation in material reuse here. Removing it may allow businesses such as these to grow and thrive.

/via +Gideon Rosenblatt 

Reshared post from +Adam Johnson

The joys of launching a business with a strong "Why"

It has been a little while since I've been around these parts, generally just loitering around the fringes offering a +1 here and there. Sorry.

The reason I've gone quiet is because life offline has gone crazy busy. In a good way. And since it relates to this community, I'm going to bend my own self-imposed rule and share what I'm up to with the community.

In short, I finished up my paid employment a few weeks ago after a LOOONG notice period (6 months), and started full time in my business Garbologie.

Garbologie is a business focused on creating a world without waste. That "why" is front and centre to what we do.

Once the "why" is settled and out of the way, it is actually very easy to find opportunities. There are many, many opportunities. So much so that it is almost embarrassing (but not really).

The first opportunity I've landed on is mattress recycling. My home city, Perth, Western Australia, is estimated to throw out 170,000 mattresses every year, of which only 20,000 are recycled (at a site that I established about 5 years ago).

I don't think that's good enough, and so have set up Garbologie Mattress. I plan to deal with all of the mattresses in Perth. They are dismantled, and the recovered materials sold on where there are markets. I've started that out of a small factory (170 sq.m, under 2,000 sq.ft), and with a little bit of our own money.

My business plan was to start out with 50 mattresses per month, and then steadily grow that to 1,000 mattresses per month. It is profitable at those numbers.

My plan looks like it will be shot to ribbons. One customer alone (a relatively small landfill operator) wants to deliver at least 50 per weekday, or the 1,000 per month budgeted. There are other, much larger customers out there who I've had to leave be for the time being. Until I get my processes sorted and a larger factory. So it is going to be very big.

The public reception has been huge. Without any advertising, people have been finding me on Google and I've collected 5 mattresses from two people. In a week. People are loving the story. The strength of word of mouth is massive and growing. The facebook page is growing at a steady clip. Local investors want to come on board (I'm not accept their money at the moment, because I don't need it and want to grow with our own funds first).

Why is this happening? Well, the success is very clearly linked to people resonating with the "why". People don't like the idea of their mattress going to the tip. They want to do better, and they will pay for the service. In fact, it seems they have been waiting for somebody to do better.

The other elements of this reception (I believe) are a heavy focus on customer service, and keeping costs down. Australians don't do either very well, especially not in (perhaps former) boomtown Perth. I aim to delight every customer. So each customer gets a "recycling certificate" that sets out what was recovered from their mattress(es). I collect from them. They don't pay through the nose.

The next step, and one for which I'm about to pay a lot of money in the form of a lease deposit, is a much larger site that enables me to set up my Tip/Shop business. Here people pay to drop off their waste, but rather than it being dumped, we help them unload, sort the waste and resell or recycle as much as possible. A world without waste. Oh, and there'll be room for mattress recycling with a viewing platform for people to see what happens.

And alongside this crazy, beautiful, awesome stuff I'm helping a farmer develop an agribusiness ecosystem around a landfill he wants on his land. Yeah, the landfill's not so cool, but it's better if the gas is used to heat broiler sheds, the manure from the broiler sheds is composted to produce fertiliser, and the fertiliser goes on his canola crop.

What is the point of this? Well, it's not really intended to be an extended advertisement. Really, it's not. Instead, it's all about The Vital Edge (to borrow a phrase coined by, oh, I can't remember now) that comes from Good Business.

If you do the right thing, if you build a business around that, if you have a powerful why and the burning desire to make it happen, it happens. People flock to that vision. It's almost as if you have an unfair advantage. You don't. You have an advantage, but it's perfectly fair. It is the advantage of being a business that speaks to the deeply held values of people, your customers. It is the vital edge of doing good.

I can't promise that I'll be a regular here again for a little while to come, but you will know that I am flat out doing the best good I possibly can. 

5 thoughts on “Why state-controlled recycling isn't always the best

  1. Scott Hatch

    My guess is they were concerned about smuggling of electronic circuit boards into China where they are smelted to get the copper, tin and gold. There should be better ways for the state to coop private industry in preventing bad practise, rather than trying to set up a monopoly.

  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +Michael-Forest M. where I live – Karlsruhe, Germany. Disposal on old household large electronics (e.g. stove) was changed at the beginning of 2012. Disposal of large waste (e.g. Mattresses) was changed beginning of 2013.

  3. Michael-Forest M.

    "Until recently, private waste facilities have been able to collect old electronics and large waste and recycle the materials. But this changed last year, meaning only the state is allowed to do so (it's free if the state picks it up, the private waste handlers have to pay a fee to the state, which they have to pass on to consumers, if they pick it up)."

    Where is this?


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